The last days of Jerkle the wild turkey of the Berkeley hills

I had a poignant moment at my campsite this morning. Involving those goddamn wild turkeys, believe it or not. My hated enemies.

Now, I feed all the wild critters in the Berkeley hills, except for the wild turkeys. Why? Because they’re too big (40 pounds) and there are too many of the bastards (dozens of them). And if I didn’t run them off, they’d eat every morsel of cat food I put out for my cats. And frankly I can’t afford to feed a flock of turkeys. Plus, they’re goons. They regularly knock over the water dish and my cats have to go all day with no water. So I always run them off when they show up at my campsite.

Two of the turkeys in particular have tormented me for years. They were always together, like a couple. So I named them Herkle and Jerkle. And they’d show up at my campsite every morning. And they’d circle around my campsite for hours. And the second my back was turned they’d make a mad dash for the cat food dish. I’d get up and chase after them in a rage, cursing and screaming bloody murder at them, and throwing rocks and branches at them. But I could almost never hit them. They were way too fast and zipped straight up the hill on their powerful legs like the Road Runner cartoon (Only one time I did manage to hit one of them right in the ass. That turkey jumped straight up 5 feet in the air, squawking and feathers flying before she fled up the hill. Very satisfying. For once. After the thousands of times when I missed) (I’d make a lousy baseball player).

Herkle disappeared a year ago. But Jerkle is still around (do turkeys experience loneliness??). Anyways, I was taking a nap this morning when Jerkle woke me up with her gobbling sound. They’d be more successful sneaking into my campsite as cat food thieves if they didn’t constantly make that gobble-gobble sound. But I guess it’s a compulsion with them. They can’t stop doing it.

I get up and start to chase after Jerkle in a rage, like usual. Jerkle took off running. But after she got about 20 yards away from me, she stopped running. She sat down on the ground. And sat there for quite some time. Looking like a chicken sitting on an egg. Which was weird. She’d never down that before.

After awhile I realized why. When she tried to stand up, her legs would buckle and she’d fall right back down to the ground. I had noticed for awhile that her legs were getting progressively worse. She staggered around with a bad limp that got noticeably worse over the last month, as she staggered around the woods. I realized Jerkle was on her last legs. Literally.

To my surprise, I felt a pang of sadness as I watched her sitting there. Part of my reaction was personal. I’ve noticed my own legs have been getting progressively weaker lately. And I often wonder how much longer I’ll be able to make the trek up the Berkeley hills to my campsite.

But it was more than that. As much of a nemesis and a pain in the ass that Jerkle could be, she’d still been a part of my life for many years. And I realized there was a bond there. I guess it’s like athletes who can be fierce rivals and hate each other’s guts all the years they’re competing against each other. But after they retire they realize there’s a strong bond there. A brotherhood.

I packed up my campsite, and left a plate of food for Jerkle. I guess I’ll have to start feeding her now.

But I still hate those goddamn wild turkeys!!!

The wild animals of the forest

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I’m told the term “co-ed” is archaic, sexist and offensive. So I apologize to anyone who is offended. I just like to use it because it’s so short and terse and only 4-letters.

My campsite in the Berkeley hills is pretty secluded. And people rarely come up there. Especially during the late-night/early-morning hours that I occupy it. But every now and then I’ll run into somebody. Like this one unfortunate interaction I had with this young Berkeley co-ed this one time.

I woke up one morning and I noticed somebody had left these dinner plates on the ground near where I sleep. And the plates had a layer of white powder on them. I just figured somebody had had a picnic lunch there the day before and hadn’t bothered to clean up their mess. So I tossed the plates in a garbage can down the road. And didn’t think anything more about it. Until:

A couple hours later when I was approached by this UC cop, and this young Berkeley co-ed who appeared somewhat distraught.

“Did you happen to notice two dinner plates that were lying on the ground here?” asked the cop.

‘Yeah,” I said. “I thought they were litter so I tossed them in the garbage can.”

It turned out the plates were part of a science project the co-ed was doing for her science class. She was trying to determine what kind of wild animals lived in the deep, dark woods, by seeing what kind of foot-prints were left in the wild powder, and then matching the foot-prints to the particular animals. And now I had done destroyed her darn science project. So that was fucked.

I went down and retrieved her plates from the garbage can. And then packed up all my camping stuff and left, because the cop told me I couldnt camp there anymore (camped somewhere else for a couple days and then moved right back).

But I always thought the co-ed should have written that all up in her project report. Because she had indeed discovered a wild animal that was living I the woods thanks to her plates. Me.

Mini Scaredy tracks me down

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Later I realized Mini Scaredy had probably tracked me down by following my scent. When I spotted her on the campus,she was only about 100 yards from where I was hanging drinking beer. . . I suspect pretty soon I’ll spot her hanging out on Telegraph Avenue. Ha ha.

Walking through the Berkeley campus last night on the way up to my campsite, I spotted this cat darting across the lawn and into the bushes. This shadowy blur in the night. I figured it was a feral cat. So I hung around for a bit to see if I could give it some food. But no sight of the cat, so I turned and headed back up towards the hills.

But then I heard the cat meowing at me. Which was weird. Feral cats are pretty stealthy and rarely approach strangers. So for a second I thought maybe it was one of my long-lost feral cats. Scaredy Cat or Mini Owl. Who recognized me from the past.

But no sign of the cat. So I turned and headed back up the hill.

But then, after I had gone across the campus and was headed further up the road, I heard the cat meowing again. It was following me. So I stopped and opened up a can of cat food, dumped it on the sidewalk, and then headed back up the road. And when I turned back to talk a look to see if the cat had made it to the food, there was indeed a cat there, nibbling at the food. It was MINI SCAREDY!! She took a few quick bites of the food and then followed me the rest of the way to my campsite (so that was a waste of a can of food).

I was surprised Mini Scaredy had ventured all the way down to the Berkeley campus. That’s at least a mile from my campsite. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. She’s the best hunter and the most adventurous and wide-ranging of my cats.

Mini Scaredy, queen of the universe

 

Mini Scaredy is one of those cats that LOVES to be petted. If she could get away with it she’d have me petting her all day long. Ha ha. And when she starts to reach ecstasy from the petting experience she rolls over on her back and rubs her back on my cardboard matting over and over with a big smile on her face as she stares up to the sky. And if I stop petting her she meows over and over which translates into English as “MORE!! MORE!! MORE!!” Ha ha.

Cats are so smart

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Cats are so smart. . . Mini Scaredy does this thing where she waits for me just about every night. She hides in the bushes a hundred yards down the road from the trail to my campsite — sometimes for hours. And when I show up she jumps out of the bushes to greet me, and then walks alongside me as I head up the road. It’s pretty cute. My own personal greeting committee.

The problem is: I could tell she really didn’t understand the concept of roads and cars. She’s spent her whole life living in the woods after all. And I was afraid she was gonna get hit by a car. She came real close one time. She was standing in the middle of the street and a car came right at her and she froze up — the old “deer-in-the-headlights” thing. The car had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting her.

So now I make a point, whenever I’m crossing the street I’ll suddenly run as fast as I can until I get to the other side. Mini Scaredy watches me doing this. And now she does the same thing. She sprints as fast as she can until she gets to the other side of the road.

She figured it out.

The return of Moo Cat

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Moo Cat is a tough old girl. She made it through her 10th winter living in the woods.

Moo Cat had been missing for over a week. Which she’ll do sometimes. But I was still starting to worry. I’ve seen so many feral cats come and go over the years. And Moo Cat is over 10 years old — which is pretty ancient for a feral cat. And one day I know Moo Cat just won’t be there anymore.

So it was a relief when she showed up this morning. And as wild and crazy as ever. And definitely hungry. Ate a big 14 ounce can of cat food and 3 big pieces of cheddar cheese.

Moo Cat gets her ass kicked yet again

Mini Scaredy, undisputed ruler over all that she surveys.

I don’t know if it’s because of all the rain we got this month, or because I accidentally beaned her with a stick the other day, or what. But Mini Scaredy was definitely in an ill-humored mood this morning….. Moo Cat tried to sneak into my campsite to get some breakfast — something Mini Scaredy usually let’s slide. But not this morning. Scaredy immediately went after Moo. To escape Scaredy’s wrath, Moo ran around to the back of my campsite and hid behind my backpack, cowering in fear. While Scaredy stood there about ten feet away, tensed up and ready to pounce on Moo as soon as she made her move.

Moo sat there cowering behind my pack for about 30 seconds, wide-eyed, and assessing her options. Which were severely limited at this point. She’s got her back to the wall, and somehow has to get around Scaredy if she wants to get to safety.

Suddenly Moo makes her move and sprints passed Scaredy. Scaredy turns and chases after her in full sprint. Moo manages to get about 20 yards down the trail when Scaredy catches up to her. Scaredy dives at Moo with her two front legs fully extended and spears Moo in the side with both fists. A very impressive and athletic move by Scaredy — reminded me of one of those nature films where a lion in full sprint lunges at an elk and takes it down. Moo is is knocked sideways by the blow. But she quickly scrambles and regains her balance and runs down the trail with her tail between her legs.

Scaredy saunters back to my campsite with a smug look on her face, like: “I ain’t in the mood to take any shit this morning.” Ha ha.

I fix a plate of food for Moo Cat and walk down the trail to deliver her breakfast in a neutral zone. Moo Cat doesn’t seem hurt by the exchange. Just a little humiliated. Her thick winter coat probably prevented Scaredy’s claws from penetrating to the flesh. 

I guess every now and then Mini Scaredy just feels the need to re-establish the pecking order.

Moo Cat is still upset about Mini Scaredy bullying her earlier in the day. “She ran after me and chased me and hit me with her paws. The big bully.. It was frightening and it hurt my feelings. Can’t you tell that bitch to chill out??” “There there Moo Cat. It’s all right.”

Mini Scaredy gets beaned on the noggin

 

Mini Scaredy had been missing for nearly two days. I had accidentally hit her with this big stick, and she went running down the hill as fast as she could and didn’t look back. I was actually trying to hit this skunk who had just sprayed my campsite, but, as usual, I missed. And Mini Scaredy got caught in the cross-fire. Hit her right in the bridge of the nose (a direct hit).

I was worried sick about it. Tossed and turned in my sleeping bag all night long hoping that she’d come back. But she never did.

Finally, Mini Scaredy showed up a day later in the middle of the night. She approached me  cautiously, and then stood there looking at me like: “You hit me with a big stick, asshole.” I tried to explain to her that it was an accident. But I suspect cats lack the deductive reasoning to grasp that concept.

I fixed her a big late-night dinner. And then went back to sleep. The next morning she was all purrs.  She even brought me a dead mouse as a peace offering.  All is forgiven. The End.

You hang out with a cat just about every day for 10 years, and you develop this strange bond

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The one and only magical mystical Moo Cat.

 

Lately Moo Cat has been showing up at my campsite in the middle of the night. She’ll wake me up by nudging against my head and meowing over and over. “Its me, Moo Cat, and I’m hungry!!”

I’ll grope around in the darkness for a can of cat food. Moo Cat is so excited she’s jumping all over me and purring loudly. Finally, in my half-awake stupor, I’ll figure out how to dump the cat food into the dish. Moo Cat pounces on it and eats greedily. She hasn’t had any food in several days so she’s HUNGRY.

When she’s done eating she climbs on top of my chest and I pet her for awhile. We’ve known each other for 10 years so we have some deep history between us. Then I’ll roll over and go to sleep. And Moo Cat will fall asleep on top of me.

It’s the best.